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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Attack of the Hives

I had hives one time. Horrible experience  I feel for those who have it chronically; I can't imagine going through that for the rest of my life. My attack of hives was an interesting case. It happened one night during the weekend. I started getting these large welts on my stomach that itched something awful. I didn't think much of it until it happened again the next night... and the welts began to appear randomly. I looked at pictures, and noticed they muchly resembled hives. So, I began elimination therapy. I started making my own laundry soap (which I still use now, since it's a lot cheaper and seems to be just as effective at cleaning my clothes) and washed my sheets and clothes with it. I pretty much figured it wasn't a food allergy or anything of that sort (I'm not allergic to any foods that I know of). I'm only allergic to nickel and something in certain powdered deodorants. Nickel causes small itchy wheels to form, and the deodorant causes an itchy rash.

Anyway, nothing seemed to be working. I would randomly get these hives attacks and they would spread. Sometimes I'd get them down my neck and chest and arms. Other times, my stomach and legs, and yet others my back and buttocks. Then I realized one day as I was continually scratching my head that yes - I even was getting hives up there. I began to troll the forums, looking and just reading about this condition (that's where the "research" part of me comes in). When I got an attack of hives all over my body after a long, hot shower is when I began to learn about a form of hives called Cholinergic urticaria, but I didn't fit all the symptoms. As I asked people on the forums and explained my symptoms (in which I learned that I was getting hives attacks not just at random, but the parts of my body that were exposed to direct heat.) that I might have a rare version called localized heat urticaria. Being the cat/lizard that I am, I refused to give up my heat sources, even though it was directly causing my hives - albeit I would still get random attacks too. I had some benadryl so I tried taking that. I needed to take 6 in order to feel the effects (it quite literally knocked me out) AND stop the attacks. That's when I went to the pharmacy here at the hospital and bought some Allegra while I was at work (This was Friday - a full week after it started.)

Now I have an answer to the nurse's question of "Do you have any allergies?" I do now. Allegra. Yeah. Within about an hour of taking my dose, I not only began to get a hives attack along my jaw line, but my upper lip began to swell. I looked up Allegra side-effects. The lip swelling and hives were under "get emergency medical help". Yippie. I wasn't in any danger though. But I'd had enough. I walked over to Family Medicine where my PCP was, and requested an emergency appointment to get some steroids. I was not going to go through another weekend of this.
So, when she saw that I'd tried just about everything, she prescribed the steroids and thank God they worked. I don't know what I would have done if I had to deal with heat urticaria chronically. That's severely ironical, and quite honestly, mean :P

I haven't had an attack since, and I am eternally grateful for that!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Raising Awareness of Gallstones

[Note: First and foremost, this is my journal. I try to make it interesting enough for others to read, but if it's boring then... oh well!]

I know what you're thinking - why would I need to raise awareness of something that's pretty gosh darn common? Well, real gallbladder attacks might be common, but gallbladder "annoyances" might be shrugged off as something else.

I was diagnosed with gallstones back in February of 2006, after a massive attack that felt like I was being repeatedly stabbed in my upper right abdomen (right under my breast). I was living with my parents at the time, and I awoke to a nasty feeling in what I thought was my stomach. (realizing later that no, your stomach is on the left. Your liver is on the right.) It felt like bloating or acid. I took some pepcid and tried to go back to bed. The pain increased; I took some Advil but the pain got so bad that I got scared and woke my parents. They took me to the ER, and pumped me full of I think dilaudid (which I forgot to tell them I was sensitive to [narcotics] and threw up within a couple hours into my ER stay.) They did an U/S and pronounced me with gallstones, gave me a prescription for Vicodin (and anti-nausea meds) and sent me home.

Courtesy of WebMD

Apparently, gallbladder surgery is pretty commonplace now. When I went to see my doctor and requested my first refill of the Vicodin (I believe my first script lasted until 2010), she asked me if I just wanted to remove it. I'm like, why? I've had maybe 2-3 attacks a year, and you want me to remove my organ? One reason I was so hesitant was because I'd worked with someone who'd had hers removed and she had to take some kind of medication for the rest of her life. Not to mention the possibility of chronic diarrhea due to the bile going straight to the intestines. I was not interested. I'm still not. It's just not worth it for the meager amount of attacks that I have - even with my sensitivity to narcotics.

However, I realized as I've lived with this condition for several years now, that massive gallbladder "attacks" aren't the only thing that I have to deal with. I also get a lot of just... annoying pains. Stabbing pains that aren't as bad as full-on attacks, or a feeling of bloated...ness. And the strange thing about gallbladder attacks is that it's kind of a referred pain, meaning sometimes it feels like the discomfort is coming from somewhere else. Every time I have an attack I always think it's my stomach first. And like a few days ago when I had one, I never managed to get the stabbing "omg kill me now" pain, but more of a dull ache that felt in the vicinity of my liver, and yet... I still thought it was my stomach for over an hour. I'm down to just taking 1/2 a Vicodin when they occur, and taking them has nothing to do with the pain itself. The gallbladder "freaks out" when a stone gets stuck in the opening to the duct, and that's what causes the pain. The Vicodin calms this reaction down (since it's a narcotic and works on the brain) and the stone gets unstuck by itself. This is why Advil and things don't help.

The pain of a gallbladder attack is no fun - it's been described as similar to a heart attack, and, at least in my case in 2006, the pain wasn't going to stop until I took something for it. So, my point is, if you happen to notice those symptoms and wondered what they could be, I might have just planted a seed. Hopefully I've helped someone, and told an interesting story about myself in the process :)

EDIT 10/2016: I finally saw a general surgeon about my gallbladder, and it just affirms my belief of not going through unnecessary surgery to remove the organ. He could not guarantee the outcome of how my body would react without my gallbladder, and it wasn't worth the risk. After 10 years, the attacks basically go away, but he did warn me that my gallbladder was a ticking time bomb, and I would get a stone stuck in a duct (a life threatening condition) eventually. It was not a matter of if, but when. That's okay. I work at a hospital and live 5 minutes away from one. I will take my chances!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What I'm _________ December Edition

Eating: Holy crap. Someone went to a lot of trouble to make a ton of different cookies and brought them to our office. There are shortbread cookies, sugar cookies, peanut butter, chocolate chip... zucchini bread, nuts, FUDGE. (I'm usually not drawn to fudge, but this stuff was good!). I've been gaining weight like nobody's business, I'm sure. By the way, this was the first time I've ever tried zucchini bread (chocolate loaf no less!) And it was really good. I'm pleasantly surprised.

Drinking: After my failed attempt at making Alton Brown's gummy worms, I made lemonade out of lemons by making cherry limeade out of the leftovers lol. I started with cherry-flavored jello, and put it into sugar "molds" (I also added citric acid for that sour flavor), but they never set right. So I scooped up all that half-set jello sugar and thought "what can I possibly do with all this? I don't want to throw it away..." it was 4 cups of sugar per sheet pan! So then I was all like "well, I have lime juice... and it's already nice and sour..." BINGO. Justin and I have a glass occasionally, and it's delicious.

Watching: Once Upon a Time. Originally, a friend of mine told me all about the show when it first started. It piqued my interest, but I just never began recording it. Then just a few weeks ago, my parents told me they really liked it and were watching it. So, I decided to get caught up. Almost there... about 5 episodes to go. I'm really liking it so far. I love to hate Regina, and the man that plays Rumpelstiltskin is epic. (holy crap, the word Rumpelstiltskin was on Chrome's spell-check list. Ha!)

Listening to: Besides mentioning yet another Hatsune Miku song that I have on eternal repeat, I will instead mention TSO, or Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I actually listen to them all year round... I don't have a season for holiday music. But my catch is that I hate regular Christmas music. Yeah, you heard me. I'm only 28 years old and I'm already sick of the same old boring music. Only playing it once a year isn't even a good enough span of time in between. But I really like TSO because it's more rock music than Christmas music. My favorite ones are Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24 (includes light show!), First Snow, and A Mad Russian's Christmas. Also, here's a cool house to another TSO song. I also like non-typical Christmas music, like The Kinks "Father Christmas" and "Christmas Wrapping" by the Waitresses.

Reading: I've discovered a new author that I enjoy. I already read "Born At Midnight" by C.C. Hunter, and now I'm onto his/her second book "Awake at Dawn". I'm really liking this series so far. Synopsis: To the outside world Shadow Falls is just an ordinary camp for troubled teens nestled deep in the woods. But the kids at Shadow Falls are far from ordinary. They’re supernatural. And from the moment high school student Kylie Galen enters this world of fairies, vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters, she’s had one burning question: What am I?

Writing: Bah, I'm up to page 91 on my Werewolf story. I haven't written hardly anything because I'm kind of stuck and dealing with a lot of other shit in my life right now. But I'm not giving up on it like my other... 20 some-odd stories lol.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Honestly, I have no idea what this thing is or how it works. But I guess I was nominated by a fellow blogger friend of mine for it. So, thank you Michelle, I appreciate it :). Even though I don't know you very well or what you're going through, it's nice to read about it. And your recipes make me drool!

Part of the rules is that I have to post the picture,
I guess.
More like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Another rule of this nomination is that I have to list 7 things that you don't know about me. Since this blog is also read by some of my family, that task is pretty much impossible; so I'll just go with what most of you don't know about me :P

1. My favorite pet in the whole wide world was a duck. I own a cat now that I love with all my heart. But before then, it was Chipper the duck. A lot of people in school made fun of my love for this animal. Nobody understood how I could love waterfowl. Well for one thing, he grew up with me, so he didn't run when I came inside his cage. I held him and pet him and talked with him. I pretended to help him fly even though he couldn't, and I took him for walks just like a dog, but without a leash. He was always there for me when I had a crappy day at school. And when he got eaten by a predator my heart was broken. I cried for days. And if you think ducks can't make good pets; that they have no capacity for emotion or to love, you would think differently after seeing Robin, his mate, sitting inside the small house that we kept their food dry in. Ducks hate things above their heads. But there she sat the day after his death. Unmoving, silent, sad, traumatized. I still miss my Chip-chip.

Chipper is the mallard. Or what is known as a 
Rune Duck, when not wild

2. I have Arachnophobia. It's not 100% debilitating, but it's close. As a small kid, I used to capture spiders in jars all the time. Then one day, all of a sudden (this may have to do with watching the movie of the same title!) I became scared of them to the point where I would freak out and hyperventilate if one got in my way. I'm not scared of all spiders. I just scream in surprise and then avoid them. Or kill them. But hobo spiders scare the f out of me and I can't STAND them being anywhere near me. They come indoors during the summer to look for mates. And they. Are. HUGE. Also dangerous, since they're related and sometimes mistaken for the Brown Recluse. They're funnel web spiders and run like a mother - yeah. They're fast. And I scream and run and hide. Nothing scares me like that. I care not for bugs, rats, or snakes. Just spiders.

3. I talk to myself all the time, even when I'm not alone. I'll mumble my thoughts aloud because I just take comfort in it, I guess. I give my thoughts a presence if I give them a voice. Even if no one hears them but me. 

4. I sing. I'm no Mariah Carey, but I think my voice is decent. I probably also think I'm better than I actually am, but at least I have the wherewithal to know that I'm not good enough for American Idol. I record myself singing many different things. As long as it's with music, I sound pretty damn good. If I mute the music and listen to just myself... eek, not so much. I actually posted my best work on youtube for all to hear. I'm normally embarrassed to hear myself sing, but this song is very special to me. Please read the synopsis and you'll understand why. 

5. I'm kind of a geek. And I like geeks. I used to be a huge Star Trek fan when I was in school. I was the Kevin Bacon of Star Trek. I could link just about anything to Star Trek in some way. I had a huge crush on Julian Bashir of Deep Space Nine. I wrote story after story after story. I basically began my whole writing career off Star Trek alone. I dabbled a little in Dungeons and Dragons, but I didn't last very long. I'm creative with my hand, not necessarily with the quick wit that's required for D&D. I play World of Warcraft. I love RPG's. I have my own Warhammer army. I started that because my husband got into it, and trying to be the good wife, I tried to share his interests. I found more pleasure in painting my figurines than actually playing the game. Strategy was never my strong suit. 

6. I love doing research. I didn't realize that everyone wasn't this way until I had a candid conversation with Justin's friend, who says he hates it. Research is how one learns and expands knowledge. It's all I've got now that school is out. A lot of the things I know are self taught. When I needed to upgrade my computer and I was looking for what to buy, I delved deep into the recesses of how computers work. I learned about RAM and what they call "timing"; the 4 numbers you see when you're looking at a stick of RAM on the internet. I learned about what makes processors fast. You could say that I make "informed" decisions. As long as what I'm reading doesn't completely baffle me, I'll work it out. 

7. I have more friends on the internet than I do in real life. This has always rang true for me. The internet has always been my social outlet of choice. It's harder to be judged here. I've had many a relationship here. I used to visit chatrooms when I was in high school. I don't do that anymore - every time I try I just can't get into it like I once was. I had so many friends there who I was able to tell my problems to. They listened. That's what I needed most. I met my soul mate and fiancee there, before he died tragically of a heart attack in 2005. I have two friends in real life but I rarely speak to them. They've hung on from High School, and I know Mary attempts to reach out and I love her for it; but she has a kid now, and is going to school. The internet has always been my constant. The people are different from long ago, but the relationships I hold still remain the same.

And now, the last rule. Apparently, I have to nominate 7 other bloggers this honor. Unfortunately, I don't know 7 other bloggers; I don't follow a lot of people. But I do follow one, and even if I had more to choose from, I'd choose her anyway. Anne is one of the bravest people I know. She's been through so much in her life and she has not given up. Her blog, Starving Writer at Large, is about faith and mental illness and being able to write. Anne, you deserve this award even more than I do! Love you, girl.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

I Think I'm Addicted to Caffeine

It's strange. I didn't think it was possible. But maybe that's because I used to only drink about 24 oz of coffee a day.

And then I switched to tea.

I don't normally drink the tea for the caffeine content like I do coffee, except for in the morning with my breakfast. The rest of the day, I'm drinking it for the health benefits and the fact that it's flavored water (I need to get my water intake somehow!). And even though tea has at least half the amount of caffeine as coffee, I'm drinking at least twice as much. I'm at 3-4 16oz cups a day (although I only use 1 tea bag for 16 oz of water). And if I still can't wake up, I have some coffee as well at work.

Here's what happened.

I woke up today after about 8-9 hours of sleep. I was still tired, but I got up anyway because we needed to go grocery shopping. Justin was still sleeping though because he went to bed late, so I made myself an egg mcmuffin (if I said 'egg muffin' instead, what would you think of?) and a cup of tea and settled in for a couple of hours of Once Upon A Time (great show by the way. I'm half way through season 1 already). The tea I chose this morning wasn't my normal faire of Bigelow Vanilla Chai Tea. It was a loose leaf organic chocolate chai blend from Marlene's. I have no idea of its caffeine content. Just as Justin was about to get up though, I became soul-crushingly fatigued. I had a pressure headache that felt so different than anything I'd ever felt before. And the fatigue was new too. I've been lazily tired before. I've even yawned myself to death and had droopy eyes. That's normal for me. But this... my headache was causing me to feel as if I could barely stand. Barely walk. It was kind of scary. I decided to take a couple of advil and see if more sleep would help. Justin went out for a bit and I thought that if I could sleep until he returned, my headache would be gone and I'd feel better. But nope. Although extremely fatigued, I didn't really fall into REM while Justin was gone and woke up when he got back. Still with the headache. 
So, I reached for the caffeine. The only source in my house is through tea, so I made my strongest kind: the vanilla chai. Almost instantly after I drank it, the headache disappeared, and the first thing I thought was "uh oh".

I had thought I was immune to the addiction. After all, I drank coffee every morning and skipped weekends without any consequences. But I guess I just hadn't been drinking enough before. I still find it odd, though. I'd had caffeine this morning. Oh well. It's still worth it. The tea is very much worth the cost of the caffeine addiction. After all, I do seem to have a bubble of immunity from getting sick! It wakes me up and keeps me well! Win freaking win, in my book!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

20 Days Until Destruction

Not that I really believe that we'll all blow up on 12/21/12, but a question was posed by a friend of mine:

"If you only had 20 days to live, what would you do?"

And it got me to thinking. Well, it got me to think that I should be thinking. I'm just going to write this post as I go and see what spews out... a lot like my stories!

I'm not afraid of death. I'm afraid of dying, because dying can be sad and painful. But I'm not afraid of death itself. And unlike people that believe in God, I don't have much faith about their being a Heaven, yet I'm still not afraid of death. As the logic goes, when you're dead, you're dead. You can't care. Cold? Maybe. I'd like to believe that I'd see Josh again. That would be the only thing I really care about. That and seeing Chipper, if ducks have a place they go when they die :P

But, back to the question at hand: What would I do if I knew the world was ending in 20 days? That makes a big difference when you know as opposed to not knowing. To be honest, I'm not sure I'd do much at all. I'm not a risk seeker. I don't really have a bucket list because I'm boring, I guess. I'd like to see Japan. I'd like to scuba dive. I'd want to visit my favorite places again probably. The mountains, the ocean... I'd probably go see Yellowstone National Park. Maybe I'd even travel to New York and meet Anne, go to Metaphor and Graffiti (Jehangir Meta's restaurants) I'd also go eat at Do or Dine, Justin Warner's restaurant.  This would all be if money was no object I suppose. I don't think I even have enough credit to cover all those expenses.
Oh, I suppose I'd mention that I'd want to be with Justin. I know most everyone knows by now that we've separated. I won't go into details, but I don't hate him. I'll never hate him; and I still in fact love him. And if there really was only 20 days left, I would rather be with him and my parents than anyone else.

I'm not sure if I'm alone in thinking this, but if the world was "ending" on 12/21/12, I would think of straight blowing up, or something similarly devastating. I wouldn't care. What would scare me would be post-apocalyptic conditions. I would rather die I think, than try to survive in a world destroyed. I suppose all the planets are going to be aligning on 12/21/12, which hasn't happened in... I don't even know. I read on that NASA was debunking all the destruction stories, but they never mentioned that one. (Although they did mention the polar shift, which has happened to our planet before and could happen again at any time). I read that the planets' aligning could be bad. Something about the gravity and blah blah I can't remember what I read.

Anyway, I'd like to know what everyone thinks. Comment and let me know what you would do with only 20 days left. Thanks!